One of the most important parts of content marketing is consistently posting informative and engaging blog posts and articles.
However, some creators don’t always understand that the format you use to write is just as important as the information you present.
This is where having a strong content hierarchy becomes important.
In this guide, we will go over what a content hierarchy is and why you should develop one for your website.
And, as a bonus, we will also talk about how visuals play an important role in this process.
Whether you’re a content writer, editor, or just want a consistent format for content on your website, this is an important read.
Let’s get started.
What is Content Hierarchy?
Content hierarchy is a marketing strategy element that places the most important information higher up on the page and the less important stuff down near the bottom.
It is a method that works for nearly any type of content on your website — from landing pages to marketing emails.
Most professional marketing agencies and major companies use a form of content hierarchy, which is why you probably recognize it without actually knowing what it entails or that it was used.
You might even notice that we use a form of content hierarchy on our Rock Content blog posts and page — even on the post you’re reading right now.
See how we’ve started off with the most important information before moving into lesser details?
That’s the content hierarchy at work.
Why is Using a Content Hierarchy Structure Effective?
When it comes to reading and understanding information on the internet, your audience has a lot to digest.
There are just too many pages and posts for most people to spend more than a few seconds skimming a page.
That said, using a content hierarchy structure ensures that they’re getting the most important information up front in a manner that is easy to read very quickly.
When you combine a content hierarchy with visual elements like graphics, buttons, and call-outs, most readers are able to get the gist of what you’re communicating in a quick and effective manner.
Another reason why your target market is so receptive to the content hierarchy format?
It’s the same one newspapers have used for over a hundred years, which means most of us are conditioned to look for the most critical information at the start of the piece instead of the end.
Benefits of Content Hierarchy
As a content marketer, there are many benefits to adopting a content hierarchy structure for all of your written content, informational pages, and other forms of media.
Not only does it make it easier to get their attention to the most important points you want to make, but hooking the reader’s attention from the very beginning can also have other benefits, like a better time on page, too.
Here are a few of the most important:
1. Improved Bounce Rate and Time on Page
When the content on your pages follows a logical structure, visitors are more likely to stay for an extended period of time.
When someone comes to your page and leaves without clicking on any links or making any other attempt at interaction, this is called a bounce.
The higher your bounce rate, the greater the chances are that you need to make adjustments in your content.
Further, the amount of time one spends on the page can be a good indication of whether your content is really meeting their needs or capturing their attention.
These are both important metrics to measure, as they can give you an idea of whether your content hierarchy is working or needs a few adjustments.
The good news about using this type of “important information first” structure is that it can sharply improve your bounce rate and increase the amount of time someone spends on your page, leading to better engagement and a boost in conversions.
2. Increased Sense of Trust for Your Brand
As unusual as it might sound, another key benefit to using a content hierarchy on your pages is an increased sense of trust for your brand.
Like we mentioned above, most people are used to seeing major brands and international newspapers use the inverted pyramid style of content hierarchy that we’ve described here.
From a psychological perspective, they’ve been mentally trained to automatically trust pieces that follow this specific format.
After all, we’re always told that newspapers and journalism are based on factual evidence.
In turn, this creates a mental connection of familiarity, professionalism, and an overall positive mental idea that the content must be trustworthy.
Since we know that just about anyone can write anything on the internet, content marketers understand that this isn’t always the case.
However, at a quick glance, your audience probably doesn’t understand the connection between your use of a content hierarchy structure and innate trust in who you are as an organization — which can work to your advantage in some cases.
3. Better Cohesive Look Across Your Entire Website
When you adopt a strong content hierarchy across all pages on your website, you’re creating a better cohesive look throughout your entire website.
Though each section might have different information, utilizing pages that place your most important information up front can create a visual aesthetic that carries from one area of your website to another.
It could also mean a visitor being able to scroll down and spot a call-to-action button immediately without having to search too hard — simply because they know where you generally place them in the hierarchy of a page.
Not only does this look more professional, but it can also help aid in brand recognition as a whole.
4. It Makes It Easier to Create Future Content
Have you ever started to write a new blog post or outline a landing page, but weren’t sure exactly where to start?
When you have a strong content hierarchy for your website, there’s no need to worry about this, as you’ll already have a basic framework for how to proceed.
In fact, you’ll be able to create content faster and more efficiently, simply because a content hierarchy leads itself to acting as an outline for your finished product.
By removing the guesswork of what information to place in what spot, you’ll be able to just jump into filling in different sections with ease, which can save an incredible amount of time in the long run.
5. Better Conversion Rates
We’ve already established that most people are just skimming the page from the top to get the most important information first.
That said, a strong content hierarchy can also make it easier to improve your overall conversion rate.
When visitors have the ability to spot specifically placed call-to-action text or buttons, they’re more likely to jump right to them when they’ve made a decision to act.
Instead of having to look around for a spot to take that next step, they’ll be able to see it right away within the natural format of the page.
In turn, this can mean more people taking the leap and converting — whether the goal is to simply sign up for email marketing or buy a specific product.
Bonus: Essential Principles of Visual Hierarchy
It is incredibly important to remember that a strong content hierarchy doesn’t just include text.
How you strategically place images, tables, bulleted text, and headlines are all part of your overall content hierarchy.
For example, let’s say that you always have a primary header followed by subtext, introductory paragraphs, and then a table of contents box.
In each subsequent H2 section, you add a coordinating image that reflects the written content’s message.
Finally, you conclude with a call-to-action button and callout at the bottom.
Can you envision why how you layout the content visually makes such a big difference?
When deciding on a firm content hierarchy for your website, it is important to take into account that visual hierarchy.
By doing so, you can achieve that overall cohesive look that catches attention and encourages visitors to take action.
Here’s a sample content hierarchy with visual elements to give you a good idea of how to model your own.
- H1 tag with pertinent keywords for improved SEO.
- Subtext explaining what the goal of the page includes.
- Brief introductory paragraph.
- H2 tag that explains the first point you’re trying to make in the content.
- Several paragraphs of text no longer than one or two lines to visually break up the content for easier reading.
- Photo, infographic, or chart that matches the content.
- Repeated H2 tags, written content, and visuals until you’ve reached the end of your text.
- Final concluding section with a visual call-to-action or button.
Wrap Up: Using the Right Content Hierarchy to Improve Results
There are many benefits to using a content hierarchy to outline content on your pages.
By adopting this practice, you can make it easier to create new pages in a quick and easy fashion.
Likewise, you make it easier for visitors to understand what information is most important and how they can take immediate action.
If you haven’t used a content hierarchy in the past, it might mean that you need to look into whether your current pages and posts are really fulfilling your needs.
Using our content maturity assessment is a good place to spot areas where improvement is necessary!